One year ago I wrote about a homecoming. That is how I viewed Millie’s death then and how I still view it today. So much of who she was had already left us and all that we had was this delicate shell of her former glory. Her death forced me to think about life and about the after life.
I feel like I evolved as a person in my role as her caregiver. That was her gift to me. She showed me what I was capable of. If I had known in 2003, when we buried my Grandfather, all of the things that were to come I never would have agreed to stay. The version of myself that was still wearing t-shirts from movie premiers and bristling over the lack of good Thai food in a small Alabama town would never have signed up for wheelchairs and adult diapers. She never would have stayed around for tantrums and hallucinations.
But I’m so glad I did.
I sadly still see the frail image of Millie in my mind when I think of her. Just for a moment. The bones. It’s hard to not just have that visual of the final scene. Even though it was so peaceful, so graceful, so gentle and calm. On the heels of that image is this photograph taken just three days before she died:
It is a photograph that captures all of who I was at that moment in time. The duality: New Mother, Loving Granddaughter. And here were my people – the person I am of and the person who is of me- connected. The overlap of their life was the greatest gift the Universe has ever given me. Six months exactly. And part of me wonders if Millie waited that one extra day so that her passing wouldn’t fall on W’s half birthday. I doubt she was fully aware of time and date, but half birthdays are big deals to me (it’s a holiday birthday thing) and her waiting until after midnight just seemed too polite to be a total coincidence.
Mother and I like to think that she is somewhere with my Grandfather. The two of them reunited in death. They leave us pennies and silver coins in unexpected places. They are in the room every night when we sing to W, “I love you a bushel and a peck”. They are on the sidewalk looking up with us when we see airplanes soar over our heads.
I think of Millie daily in all sorts of nooks and crannies of thoughts. Just this morning W’s hair was looking particularly auburn and I so wanted to turn to her and chime, “red in the head!” Which is something silly she used to always say. She had so many silly things. How will I ever remember them all?
But it has been a year without her and our life has hardly been stable. We would be nowhere without the kindnesses of our friends. The bit of good news to share is that Mother did get a call and she has been scheduled for a third interview – an in person interview in the Northeast early next week. We dare to hope.